Thursday, Friday, Saturday – Berlin Blog
Once again we travelled on the train, this time to Savignyplatz. We had arranged to meet a German friend, Oliva. She had noticed we were in Berlin from my posts on Instagram and sent a message telling us that she was now living in Berlin. We had not seen each other for some years, not since the days when we all lived in Italy. I asked her to book a table for lunch where we could eat traditional German food. This she did. More later.
We arrived early at Savignyplatz, and The Man decided it would be a good idea to walk along the Kurfürstendamm, this was centre of West Berlin during the partition era and the main shopping street. Armani, crazy expensive shoes that I didn’t even like. Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Versace, Victoria Beckham, to name a few. Interesting to look at but I wasn’t tempted to buy anything or even try something on. I don’t know if it’s my age but I’m just not bothered about owning any designer stuff. I don’t like bling and it is beyond my comprehension that a minority of people can purchase things in these shops whilst the majority are looking for money to feed the family and keep them warm. I mean €995 for a pair of trainers?!?! But, as I said, it was interesting to walk along the street and a few of the security guards outside shop doors were quite attractive. . . ha ha ha. We sat outside an upmarket coffee shop to take an Americano with hot milk on the side (The Man) and a small cappuccino (me) and had fun, people watching.
The Dicke Wirtin restaurant was exactly how I thought it would be. In my work in progress, I have my characters dining at Aschingers, which no longer exists, well if it does, I couldn’t find it. However, The Dicke Wirtin (The Fat Landlady) was, I imagine, a close resemblance to Aschingers. What struck me was the amount of dark wood; balustrades divided those dining at tables on the raised platform. High tables with bar stools, and smaller tables with bentwood chairs, or high-backed bench seats with flowery cushions. The place was overloaded with pictures, pottery beer mugs, china cups and trinkets and memorabilia. Some of the walls were papered with a montage of photographs from over the years. The ambience around all this suggested a social history of artists, writers, activists, philosophers and political dissidents, deep in discussion around the tables whilst eating their cabbage soup, bread and cheese or just necking a stein of beer.
The menu was indeed German. I chose, Riesenbratwurst mit Rotkohl und Petersilienkartoffeln, (giant bratwurst with red cabbage, boiled parsley-potatoes and gravy). It did not disappoint; but I had indigestion all afternoon and well into the evening and the red cabbage had a little too much bay in it for me. Still I don’t ever have to eat it again. The Man chose, Königsberger Klopse mit Rote und Salzkartoffen, (meat balls in a white sauce, beetroot and boiled potatoes). It looked insipid but apparently it tasted fine, Oliva played safe and had the soup of the day. Maybe I should have followed her lead but I really wanted the bratwurst. Perhaps a giant one was a little over the top.
Before we left the area, we visited a huge bookshop under the arches of the railway station. The Man bought a chunky Magnum photographic book with photos of Tours de France over the years. I bought a ‘then and now’ book of photographs of Berlin. Very helpful for my research.
Big walking day today. Took the S-Bahn from Jannowitzbrücke station (a ten-minute walk from our hotel — have I already told you that? The S-Bahn is above ground and extends beyond the inner city to the suburbs. We were heading for Potsdam. I don’t know if it’s because I was only born five years after the second world war, which meant it was still very much spoken of in my childhood, but the scenery and stations that we passed on our train trip to Potsdam seemed to be full of sights that reminded me of stories that I’d heard. I could imagine people running through the woods looking either foraging for food or looking for a place to hide. I could ‘see’ the trucks and soldiers. It was a little chilling. We stopped at Wannsee station where Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich, Goebbels and others agreed the ‘Final Solution’. The sign for the station was written in Teutonic Script font, also scary. But, moving on, because it was all a very long time ago and I don’t want to dwell on it here, as today’s Germany is not that of the 1930’s and 1940s.
It was Oliva who suggested Potsdam as a must to visit and how right she was. Over the last few years, extensive renovations have taken place. As we walked from the station towards the Sanssouci Palace (the main attraction) we detoured to stroll around the Dutch Quarter of the town. It was easy to identify; the architecture and the bicycles a real giveaway! Loved it, as I did other areas of Potsdam. I think I could easily spend a few months there, in the right sort of apartment with a balcony…hmm wishful thinking, probably far too expensive.
It took well over half-an-hour to walk to the palace gates as we didn’t take the direct route from the station. A sign on the gate said New Palace 1.5k. You could see it in the distance, and it seemed much closer than 1.5k. But. . . it wasn’t, in fact I think it might have been 2k! We walked it anyway. All the way down — and all the way back! Past the Old Sanssouci Palace, the Orangery, the Italian gardens. It was breath taking in its vastness. The grounds extending to many acres and the palace magnificent at the end of its driveway. We didn’t go in. In fact, I’m not sure it was open to the public.
We both loved Potsdam but our legs and feet did not appreciate our enthusiasm. After stopping for a quick ‘bowl dinner’ at Dean and David’s (a great little restaurant chain – it was our second visit) we headed straight back to the hotel and a quiet evening in our room playing cards and after around 12 kms, resting our tired limbs.
The forecast for Saturday wasn’t good, rainy and dull. The Man had a desire to visit the Arminius indoor market in Moabit, where we thought we might pick up brunch. As you might expect it was a very large, brick, purpose built, market hall with high ceilings and glass windows around the top of the walls. The smell when we walked in teased the taste buds; frying bacon, waffles with syrup, coffee etc., We opted for the all you can eat brunch. We paid €37 each and were given a wrist band to prove it. The menu included unlimited Prosecco (which we didn’t have because neither of us drink alcohol). The friendly waiter showed us to a table and immediately brought us a huge pot of coffee. All you had to do was visit any one of a number of stalls selling different breakfast food, fill your plates, return to your table and eat. You could do this as many times as you liked from 10am until 2pm. Needless to say, we didn’t pace ourselves very well, and only managed about an hour and a half of eating. All this scoffing was accompanied by a piano player! Also, there was a very large table for friends and family to gather around. It has a sign above it saying Die Mutter aller Tische, The Mother of all Tables.
The rain was rather heavy by the time we left. We took the train back to Alexanderplatz and went to the Alte Nationalgalerie, a magnificent building. We wandered around and looked at many paintings — which is what you do in an art gallery — a favourite of mine was a Renoir called In Summer. It’s of a young girl sitting in the garden looking pensive. I was inspired to write a story from it. Sounds a bit trite but I felt she spoke to me.
Another painting that has stuck in my mind is The Foot of The Artist, by realist artist Adolf Menzel. I couldn’t stop staring at it. As yet though, it has not inspired a story.
The Man is fond of sculpture, me not so much, but I’ve included a photograph above of his particular favourite from the day, a stevedore from Wilhelmshaven.
We loved Berlin and I look forward to visiting again. There’s so much to see and do and it’s a wonderful city. If you haven’t visited yet I can highly recommend that you do so as soon as possible!.